Bedford is a town built up and grown around a Market. In it’s first stages Farmer’s from the surrounding countryside came to the Corn Exchange to sell the produce they had grown and possibly buy goods themselves. These not only would have been vegetables but also livestock, something that doesn’t happen in 2019!
Cattle were brought to market in large lorries, called wagons, and unloaded into pens for farmers to view and place bids against the cows and bulls on sale. Smaller livestock was available such as chickens, ducks and rabbits and often taken home in a variety of ways including crates, cages and even cardboard boxes. As time has passed, and also laws on selling live animals this no longer takes place here but in purpose built venues in other parts of the County.
With the disappearance of livestock other items were introduced and soon became common place covering a whole rage of goods that reflect the culture of the day and the move into the next development era. Items covering house and home suddenly appeared and stalls of china began to appear. This was sold by auction and consisted of large wicker baskets being loaded with whole tea sets, and a man with gavel (wooden hammer) would shout out the price and engage customers in a falling auction. When enough people were interested he would sell at a pre set price and bang the gavel to close the sale. Fascinating to watch him engage the crowd, but don’t get carried away in the game or you could come home with crockery you never intended to buy!
Vegetables still remain available at Market today but are now a more exotic variety which have been imported from other E.U. countries. Even though we grow strawberries in this country we have limited availability because of our weather. Not so in places such as Spain, Portugal and Morocco who easily grow them out of season and sell them to us. Farmers keep up with customer needs and bring them to market to sell with their own local grown produce.
What happens at Market today?
Bedford currently hosts themed weeks promoting a variety of meats, vegetables and other goods from different countries at different times of the year. We have a French week where all sorts of goods from France suddenly appear outside Marks and Spencer and Boots and curious bedfordian’s come browsing the offers. These weeks have proved popular, possibly because people travel more widely these days, and themes from Spain, Germany and Poland have also proved popular.
Goods offered for sale have also changed from the days of livestock and incorporate clothing stalls of all styles for both children and adults. These stalls have been in competition with Primark, Next and New Look which are the current high street trend setters for the young and have set up the stalls directly outside these shops.
Author Malvina Innes